It's Not Easy Being Easy

Thanks for all your thoughtful responses to last week’s post about why companies fail to meet customer needs. Clearly there’s more work to be done in that department, but for now, I want to move on to the next Customer Experience Index (CXi) criteria: “easy.” Many firms claim to be easy to do business with, but which ones got the highest rating from customers?

This year, USAA (bank) and Kohl’s both earned a score of 92% in this category.

For USAA, there is definitely some overlap between its ability to identify latent customer needs and its level of easiness. For example, depositing a check via mobile phone makes the deposit process easier for everyone, not just the most geographically dispersed parts of the customer base. Strong customer understanding also led to creation of the Auto Circle experience, which is designed to make the entire car buying process easier for customers, not just the parts that a financial institution like USAA would typically have been involved in.

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Forrester’s Voice Of The Customer Awards 2012 — Nomination Period Begins March 5th

It’s that time of year again. We’re already in the midst of planning our annual Customer Experience Forum, and now we’re gearing up to collect and evaluate nominations for our Voice Of The Customer Awards — which we’ll present at the Forum.

If you’re new to the awards, here’s some background: Forrester's annual Voice Of The Customer Awards recognize organizations that excel in collecting, analyzing, and acting on feedback from their customers, incorporating customer insights into everyday decisions. We conduct the awards for three basic reasons: 1) to emphasize the importance of voice of the customer (VoC) programs; 2) to celebrate organizations that are leading the way; and 3) to highlight best practices.

If you (or, if you’re a vendor, your clients) have a strong VoC program, we encourage you to participate. It's free and it offers a great opportunity to earn some solid PR while sharing your wisdom with other customer experience pros. Also, we only reveal the names of the finalists and winners, so the potential downside is limited.  

You can find all of the information you need on our VoC Award home page. The 2012 nomination form will become available there on March 5th. In the meantime, you can review this year's timeline, get answers to FAQs, and check out information about past winners.

Customer Experience Leaders Obsess Over Customer Needs

Last week, I took you through the top scorers in this year’s Customer Experience Index by industry. But 13% of customer experience professionals said that they aim to differentiate across all industries. Which brands do they need to beat to reach that goal? Let’s start with the “meets needs” category (I’ll cover the other two in future posts). High scorers on this criteria in 2012 were:

  • USAA (bank): 92%
  • Amazon.com: 91%
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Why Health Insurers Can’t Fix Claims And Benefits Self-Service Through Design Alone

Over the years, I have worked with dozens of health insurers on the usability of their member self-service sites. The sites have admittedly gotten better over the years — easier navigation, fewer confusing links, clearer presentation of information, and even better feedback in response to user actions. But most companies are still struggling to show the value of their self-service solutions. This breaks down into two fundamental problems. The first is measurement — a problem I’ll tackle in a future post. The second is a problem I can most succinctly describe as garbage in, garbage out.

Digital customer experience professionals and eBusiness professionals responsible for website design typically have no control over benefits and claims content. That means that while sites have arguably made users’ tasks of finding claims and benefits information more efficient, the information is just as useless as it is was a decade ago.

This content is rarely designed with the consumer in mind. It’s written by lawyers and for lawyers — and (sorry, Dad) lawyers don’t speak English. They usually speak CYA. But CYA doesn’t answer people’s questions — real average-reading-level human beings who just want to know what different procedures will cost before they blindly follow their doctors’ advice.

This is the fundamental problem with the majority of today’s health insurance member websites, at least as far as claims and benefits are concerned. Until insurers produce better, clearer information outlining what is covered, what is not, how much services will cost, and (for claims) who owes/paid how much and why, it is not possible to design a member site that drives self-service for these critical areas.

Seven Steps To Get Started With Customer Experience

While I write frequently about the rise of the chief customer officer within firms advanced enough in their customer experience efforts to consider this kind of executive position, I often get questions at a much more basic level, such as: "Where do I get started?" Often an individual may get a mandate from an executive to spearhead creating a greater customer focus at the company. For those, here are seven steps for getting started:

  1. Put together a cross-functional work team of supporters. Getting involvement and buy-in from different functions across the organization is important . . . a working group can be a source of getting allies across the organization. Build a working group of 10 to 15 individuals who can help put together some foundational pieces of your customer experience effort. While having diverse functions represented in this group is important, more important at this stage are influential leaders who are putting their budgets and reputations on the line in support of the effort. Look for supportive leaders who are already actively supporting customer-focused efforts or are willing to with some direction. A great source of early supporters is the frontline, where customer care and call center organizations interact regularly with customers. In addition to main marketing/branding, sales, support, and operations organizations, others you may want to consider early on include market research or customer insights, IT, HR, and legal/compliance leaders.
     
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Watch Out…Customer Experience Innovations Can Come From Where You Least Expect Them

Last week I posted some of the most frequently asked questions we get about the Customer Experience Index, 2012. One question I didn’t include but should have is “Who got the highest score in my industry?”

I scanned the list of industry high scores and wasn’t surprised to see names like USAA (banks, credit card providers, insurance providers), Apple (consumer electronics manufacturers), and Southwest Airlines. But there were names we don’t hear about as much in customer experience like Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (investment firms), Bright House Networks (ISPs), US Cellular (Wireless service providers), and Dish Network/EchoStar (TV service providers)*. 

To me this says that brands trying to differentiate on the basis of customer experience need to look in a variety of places for possible competitive threats and standard-setters, not just the most obvious ones.  History is full of examples of small firms that could transform more quickly than their larger competitors or introduce a disruptive innovation that no one saw coming. I expect both those scenarios to play out in customer experience over the next few years. The question is just where and when.

As part of our research in 2012 you can be sure we’re going to look into what these lesser talked about brands are doing to raise the bar in their industries, but in the meantime here are two of my favorite examples of CX innovations that came from places I would have never thought to look:

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Pharmacy Customer Experience Flaws -- Why Communication Is Key In Healthcare

The other day I was at a major retailer’s pharmacy refilling a prescription. While I waited for my refill, a woman came in to refill her three prescriptions. She was clutching a $10 bill, and seemed to know exactly what she needed and what it would cost. The pharmacy tech found her scripts and informed her that she owed $17.35. The woman was shocked. She verified that the right scripts were in the bag and then asked what had happened. Two of the scripts, she said, were $4 each, and the other was usually $1.99. The pharmacist explained that one of the prescriptions had been taken off the $4 generic list.

The customer was both angry and scared. This was her essential heart medication, after all. Her frustration was understandable — the cost of one of her prescriptions had just nearly tripled, from $4 to $11.35. Likewise her fear. Prescription refill rules mean she can’t have a stockpile of pills at home to tide her over until she could find a more cost-effective option — not to mention that she might need to get a new prescription from her doctor or deal with the delay of transferring her script to another pharmacy. 

And, worse, no one had told her. She thought she had taken care of everything to manage her health — getting to the pharmacy, bringing her money, taking her pills faithfully as prescribed. She asked the pharmacist why no one had told her. He mumbled that they don’t do that.

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Improve, Transform, Or Sustain: What’s Your Path To A Better Customer Experience?

If you’re reading this post, there’s probably at least one person in your company (you) who’s already working to improve your customer experience in some way.  That means your company’s CX efforts fall somewhere on the curve below.

Improve:  This is where most companies start their customer experience initiatives.  Typically, a small group implements a voice of the customer program, prioritizes customer feedback, and routes it to different parts of the organization so that they can make changes.  Some employees might adopt new customer-focused work practices, but these efforts remain ad-hoc or siloed.  The net result is incremental customer experience improvements.

Transform:  At a certain point, some companies decide that they want to leverage customer experience in order to create a jump in customer loyalty, accelerate growth, and differentiate themselves from competitors.  When that happens, incremental customer experience improvements are no longer sufficient.  The company begins to change just about every part of the business — including processes, policies, technologies, and incentives — to focus on the needs of customers.

Sustain: For companies that decide to take the path towards transformation, this is the end goal.  Once a company puts customers at the center of all business operations, employees need to figure out how to sustain the new ways of working so that they can continue to deliver a great customer experience indefinitely.

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